Best Thing We Ate

The 10 Best Things We Ate in DC in 2015

By Rina Rapuano  |  December 7, 2015

We did it again. Ignoring doctors' orders, our ever-tightening pants and good nutritional sense, we went and ate all the things this year. From salads to fried chicken, steaks to seafood towers — and, of course, dessert (always) — we've given just about everything a test run and are ready to report back. Here are the 10 dishes that stand out as we look back on 2015: 

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  • 1. The Burger at The Grill Room

    Chef Frank Ruta has resurrected his legendary Palena burger ($22) at his new roost in Georgetown. There are four burgers available — including an egg-topped version (pictured) sporting mushrooms, truffle cheese and a housemade bun — but we recommend you start with the original. You'd be hard pressed to find a juicier, more luxurious burger. 

    1050 31st St. NW; 202-617-2424

  • Credit: Rey Lopez

    2. Whole Roasted Duckling for Two at The Source

    As part of the recent menu overhaul that has DC food-lovers talking, executive chef Scott Drewno added a whole roasted duckling for two ($74) to the dinner menu. The option brings sliced duck breast with steamed buns and accompaniments (including an addictive apricot mustard), along with a duck-bone broth bobbing with duck wontons and water spinach. You can also try the scaled-down, and much less expensive, lunch version of lacquered duck buns ($18) with house hoisin, coriander pickles and duck lo mein. 

    575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-637-6100

  • 3. Butterkuchen at Bakers & Baristas

    This brioche soaked in pastry cream and topped with toasted almonds and pearled sugar ($4.50) might be the most relentlessly craveable thing we’ve eaten all year. The recipe was crafted by former Blue Duck Tavern pastry chef Naomi Gallego (who recently moved over to Neighborhood Restaurant Group). She gained experience with Viennese pastry while working and studying in Europe.

    501 Seventh St. NW; 202-347-7893

  • Credit: Greg Powers

    4. Seafood Tower at Kapnos Taverna

    This three-tiered behemoth ($75–$125) at Mike Isabella and George Pagonis' Ballston, seafood-focused Greek spot goes well beyond oysters, shrimp and lobster — although, it has those too. We especially love it for the thoughtful seafood compositions like marinated razor clams with apple and grapefruit, and marinated mussels with celery, preserved lemon and pomegranate.

    4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-243-4400

  • 5. Linguine with Masseria XO Sauce at  Masseria

    For this dish, chef-owner Nick Stefanelli marries his love for the traditional Italian pasta preparation of aglio, olio e peperoncino — or “garlic, oil and chiles” — with his time spent cooking in Shanghai. He swaps the chile flakes with his own housemade XO sauce. He sources the prosciutto, dried scallops and dried shrimp from the wholesale markets in the neighborhood, then cooks them with olive oil and garlic for three hours to make a flavorful paste. The tasting-menu-only spot offers three courses for $62 or five courses for $84.

    1340 Fourth St. NE; 202-608-1330

  • Credit: Bobby Spero

    6. Taiwanese Fried Chicken at Maketto

    Washingtonians waited a long time for Maketto to open on H Street — and the Taiwanese fried chicken ($25) makes it all worthwhile. The beguiling bird from chef-owner Erik Bruner-Yang is brined in five spice and given a flavor boost with fish-sauce, caramel, mala oil, fried garlic and pickled chiles.

    1351 H St. NE; 202-838-9972

  • Credit: Elizabeth Parker

    7. C&T Tom Yum Kung at Crane & Turtle

    When the menu is as interesting as the one at this French-Japanese jewel box in Petworth, chicken can be a tough sell. But when we heard that it’s one of the strongest dishes and is made with chickens fed off scraps from the famed Per Se in New York, we just had to try it ($29). It teems with Asian flavors, made more interesting with tsukune (Japanese meatballs), as well as baby bok choy and king trumpet mushrooms.

    828 Upshur St. NW; 202-723-2543

  • Credit: Scott Suchman

    8. Barrel-Cut NY Strip Filet at The Riggsby

    While the NY Strip is a steakhouse classic, we’re guessing you’ve never had it quite like this ($38). The tenderness gained from the filetlike cut is enhanced by careful cooking: a deft pan-searing followed by slow cooking in the oven. It’s then draped with bé​arnaise and served with wonderful fries, and the nostalgic picture is even more complete with a side of haricot vert ($7) in shallot butter. 

    1731 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-234-3200

  • Credit: Noah Fecks

    9. Boudin Blanc at DBGB Kitchen + Bar

    There's a reason this mild truffle and pork sausage complemented by apples and a silky potato mousseline ($13) is a staple at Daniel Boulud's Downtown French-American hybrid — it's pretty near perfect. If you're trying it at brunch, there's an option to add two eggs any style for $4.

    931 H St. NW; 202-695-7660

  • Credit: Greg Powers

    10. Carota at Centrolina

    With this creative dish ($12), offered in the months after her CityCenterDC restaurant opened, chef Amy Brandwein took a commonplace vegetable and made it extraordinary, showing off the versatility of the carrot as she layered them in four different preparations: pickled, fresh, fried and roasted served over a pool of yogurt dressing laced with lemon and turmeric. An updated version ($9) now on the menu pulls in kabocha squash, cauliflower and anchovy.

    974 Palmer Alley NW; 202-898-2426